Sunday, 26 April 2015

From Third World to First

This is a tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew from the perspective of a financial blogger. The more formal tribute can be found here

Mr Lee has often been lauded for bring Singapore from Third World to First World in one generation. In the process, he has also received a fair share of criticism for his actions. In a way, many of us in Generation X and older are also trying to do the same, striving to bring our own families from Third World to First World in one generation. I grew up in an era when we do not own our roof. We had to move from places to places every few years, hence, I often had to travel long distances to school. My daily pocket money during primary school days was a mere $0.30! And putting a son through 4 years of university education was a not-insignificant strain on the family finances.

When I graduated, things were better. We could consider ourselves in the Second World by then. We owned our own roof, thus bringing much needed stability. I could, in theory, own a car with my new-found job. But knowing that there were only 40 years to build up a nest-egg before retirement starts, I had to save. I am sure many like-minded financial bloggers would understand when I say it is a fairly single-minded, no-nonsense mission to build up a comfortable cushion for our families during good and bad times. 

We keep track of our daily expenses and cut out any unnecessary expenses. We save and invest for the future. We have a keen eye for details when it comes to extracting maximum value-for-money, including deciding where to eat, what to wear, which credit cards to use, etc. I would imagine for those bloggers with wife and children, they would subconsciously influence them to do the same, occasionally earning an authoritarian label from them ;) Sometimes, our family members would advise us to spend a portion of our reserves and live better now that the finances are better, but old habits simply die hard. We are generally not generous folks that contribute much to social safety nets, at least not when there are still external risks to be managed. As we grow older, we would scan for external risks that could deal a hard blow to our finances, such as rising medical costs if our loved ones were to get sick or high housing prices if we had to buy one. We do not always have a solution to these worries, except to keep on saving for rainy days, knowing that nobody owes us a living. We keep our worries to ourselves, because there are no added benefits in having more people worried about them. Very often, the people around us do not understand what we do, but it does not really bother us, so long as we achieve what we set out to do. And finally, when the job is done and it is time for us to say bye-bye to this world, we would like to leave in the quietest manner possible, because that is the way we have lived our lives.

From Third World to First World in one generation. Whether it is building up a nation or a family, it requires sacrifices and hard decisions. Not everyone will understand at that moment in time, especially when you are at the receiving end of it. But let's hope that one day when we look back, as we enjoy the fruits of many years of labour, we can appreciate and understand the intention behind those actions.

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